IT WAS "Law & Order" meets "The Sopranos" in New York yesterday, where
, who played a bumbling aspiring mobster on the hit HBO drama, was cleared of second-degree murder in the shooting death of an off-duty policeman during a drunken, late-night search for drugs.
The jury did convict Brancato of attempted burglary. He faces a minimum of three years in pris for that, but he could get credit for the nearly three years he has served.
Brancato showed no reaction as the verdict was read but his mama began sobbing.
Involved in a cascade of bad behavior, Brancato and accomplice Steven Armento, prosecutors say : 1) broke into a basement apartment to 2) steal prescription drugs after 3) a night of drinking at 4) a strip club.
Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived next door to where the break-in occurred, came out to investigate. Armento shot the 28-year-old policeman in the heart with his .357 Magnum. The dying Enchautegui fired back, wounding both men.
Armento was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
* On the better side of the law is David Spade.
The one-time Phoenix resident donated $100,000 to the Phoenix Police Department so that it can buy approximately 50 AR-15 rifles.
Spade said that he wanted to make the donation after seeing a TV news report about Phoenix officers' having to buy their own rifles.
"These guys need to be able to do their jobs and I am just happy I could help," Spade said in a statement released by his publicist.
* As Dan Gross is on vacation, someone has to report on where athletes are spending their meal money.
Over the past week Del Frisco's (15th and Chestnut) played host to almost enough NFL players to field a team.
A week ago Sunday, Emmitt Smith dined alone, worked and watched football in the private conference area downstairs. Last Monday, A.J. Feeley dined with friends. On Tuesday, Kevin Kolb, Sean Landeta, Mike Quick, Bill Bergey and Kevin Curtis enjoyed lunch, and Stewart Bradley and Brent Celek came in for dinner.
Some of these Iggles even enjoyed the 32-oz., bone-in Tomahawk Steak.
Unfortunately, after eating the Tomahawk, the Eagles got scalped.
* Billboard.com says that Gene Autry, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Four Tops, Hank Jones, Brenda Lee, Dean Martin and Tom Paxton all will receive Lifetime Grammys at a ceremony on Feb. 7. They will be acknowledged during the Grammy telecast the next evening.
In addition, George Avakian, Elliott Carter and Allen Toussaint will be honored with the Trustees Award, and Clarence "Leo" Fender and Universal Audio will receive the Technical Grammy Award.
* According to the Hollywood Reporter, Tracy Pollan will star in Lifetime's "The Natalee Holloway Story," about the teenager who disappeared in 2005 during a senior-class vacation in Aruba.
She'll play Natalee's mother, Beth Twitty, on whose book the film is based.
* This morning on 98.1 WOGL's Ross Brittain and the Breakfast Club, Donny Osmond told Valerie Knight that he thinks he's going to follow in his sister Marie's high-heeled footsteps and be a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars."
If fainting is not a family trait, the popular Donny will be tough to beat.
* The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) says that Jeremy Piven's story that he got mercury poisoning from sushi smells fishy.
"The entire medical literature doesn't contain a single documented U.S. case of mercury poisoning from eating fish sold in restaurants and supermarkets," said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. "Piven isn't going to change that by making a convenient escape from a job he doesn't like."
According to MercuryFacts.com, if Piven weighs about 160 pounds, he would have to eat more than 100 pieces of tuna sushi roll every week for his entire life in order to introduce any new health risks from mercury.
* Rikki and Vikki, the Ikki Twins (that's their name, not a value judgment), the identical stars of MTV's "Double Shot at Love," will be looking for love at Trump Taj Mahal's Casbah Nightclub this New Year's Eve, as they host a party with some Playboy Playmate friends.
Doors open Dec. 31 at 10:30 p.m. and tickets cost $75 per person.
Room packages are also available starting at $749, double occupancy.
If the bisexual Ikkis like you (or your date) and it becomes triple (or quadruple) occupancy, we have no idea what the price is. But you'll probably pay anything. *
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.